30th Edition
12th September, 2016

Monday 5 September

It's Monday morning and after a six-week recess period, I am back on the train for a brief parliamentary fortnight of business before the conference season. On Mondays, my column is published in the National. This week I wrote about the pressure that is mounting on the Government to answer pivotal questions regarding their Brexit strategy, if they ever had one.
Photo: The National
George Kerevan: Theresa May can’t dodge the big questions forever – so the SNP will ask them

WESTMINSTER is back today from its long, English public school holidays. We will have a brief parliamentary fortnight of business then another break for the annual conferences of the main Unionist parties. The regular October SNP conference always falls outside this cosy schedule, but then Scotland is always an afterthought as far as Westminster is concerned.

The end of summer recess means that Theresa May’s government will no longer be able to dodge making hard choices about Brexit. Not that the Prime Minister is all that keen to come off the fence on anything, thereby exposing the den of hissing serpents that make up her fractured party. Thus her appearance on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday was a case of the bland interviewing the bland. Mr Marr lobbed gentle underarm questions and Mrs May batted them into midfield without breaking sweat. Anyone watching was none the wiser – which was, I presume, the whole intention.

You can access the full article here
Following our weekly Economy Group meeting, I went along with my SNP colleagues to the Chamber to listen to the first statement made in the House by the newly appointed Secretary of State for Brexit.  David Davies gave a lacklustre performance, to say the least, and failed to gave any accurate indications or roadmap regarding the government's strategy for Brexit.

I managed to ask him a question regarding the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, as you will see here.

Following Mr Davies' statement, the next item on the Business Agenda was the remaining stages of the Finance Bill debate. We stayed in the Chamber until the last vote at 12.30am

Tuesday 6 September

On Tuesday morning I went to the first meeting of the Treasury Select Committee to continue our series of interviews relating to the inquiry into the over-complicated and outdated UK tax system. This week we had a panel of business leaders who were eager to share their views about the current system and their ideas to reform it.

You can watch the session below :

After the morning session, I went directly to the Chamber to support my colleagues during the final discussions of the Finance Bill debate.

I also found time to meet with representatives of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce and to attend the weekly SNP group meeting. This had to be shortened, as Angus Robertson and Tommy Sheppard were called to the SNP deputy-leader hustings at the headquarters of the SNP London Branch.

Wednesday 7 September

On Wednesday morning, I had a meeting with the Head of Government Affairs for the People's Pensions to discuss the future implications of the Government's pension reform plan. The People's Pensions are in favour of better regulation for all master trusts, and the establishment by the Government of a co-ordinated and cross- industry led pensions dashboard.

I later met with with 16 Directors of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce to discuss the consequences of Brexit, the Apprenticeship Levy, and strategies to raise Scottish exports to a much higher level.

In the afternoon, I went to Canary Wharf for an overview of the HSBC bank. Since I became a member of the Treasury Select Committee I have visited Barclays, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, and I plan to visit other important financial institutions and regulators over the coming months.

During my visit to HSBC I had really interesting meetings with the leadership team (Retail and Commercial Banking, Global Trade Finance and the UK CEO) which proved really helpful to understanding the Group's position and the strategies they are planning for Brexit. I particularly enjoyed the presentation on Global Trade Finances. Some ideas might be of interests to Scottish outward-looking businesses, and I will be passing them on.

Thursday 8 September

On Thursday morning I interviewed Sir Charles Bean, who has been appointed the next Chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility. A hearing before the Treasury Committee is now part of the appointment procedure for such positions, as was agreed with the former Chancellor earlier this year. This will contribute to reinforcing the accountability of such roles in financial and economic institutions and the power of scrutiny of Parliament.

Then I took an early train to Glasgow, where I had been invited by The National newspaper to a dinner organised by Business for Scotland. The keynote speaker this year was our First Minister.

My column in the East Lothian Courier to be uploaded 

Friday 9 September

Today was a surgery day, when I listened to constituents in Musselburgh, Port Seton and Tranent.

Still lots of problems with benefits, especially in the area of Tax Credits, where people living alone are being deprived of benefits if they are merely suspected of having another person in the house. No warning and no investigation first. We sent a number of constituents to Food Banks this week.

Then, in the evening, to the opening of the Lammermuir Festival, a wonderful celebration of music in East Lothian's most beautiful churches and historic houses. Tonight we heard the Monteverdi Vespers in St. Mary's, Haddington.  It was completely sold out.


Saturday 10 September

The perfect morning for a run down the coast for the launch of Dementia-Friendly North Berwick. This is a wonderful scheme, conceived and executed by SNP members John and Tillie Baird, to alert shops and restaurants to the symptoms of dementia, so that they know how to deal with people who may be confused and frightened. Already numerous businesses, ranging from Anderson's the butcher and Osteria restaurant to Aldi and Tesco, have agreed to display the blue forget-me-not logo and train their staff.

I joined Tillie, John, volunteers and Sue Northrop from Dementia-Friendly East Lothian, for a photo, and then explored the mobile information centre, a valuable resource. 
Back to Haddington in the evening for another Lammermuir Festival concert at St. Mary's, which featured Handel's Water Music and a very feisty version of his mini-opera Apollo and Daphne, the story of the nymph who escapes the god by being turned into a tree.

A good audience again, coming from all over, I suspect, and bringing a new set of tourists into the county to eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels.


Sunday 11 September

A very early start today, as I had my weekly article for The National newspaper to write before I made my way to Lennoxlove for the next Lammermuir Festival concert, Singing in Secret.

This was a fascinating recital of sacred music written just after the Reformation, and sung in private houses to avoid the hideous deaths imposed on Catholics who refused to give up their faith. The Great Hall at Lennoxlove was a perfect venue.

Back to the constituency office in Haddington in a vain attempt to finish my article in time for the afternoon performance of Noyes Fludde in Dunbar Parish Church.

Sadly, it wasn't possible, but my spies tell me that the show was a revelation - a world-class performance by local and professional musicians and singers of all ages.

The children of Dunbar Primary School, playing Noah's children and animals, sang and danced with total assurance, and the audience had tears in its eyes at the end. Here they are, stars all of them, and here's the orchestra, with our office cleaner, Dolly, head bent, among the violins.
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